When deputy Knesset Speaker Eitan Ginzburg announced that the state budget for 2021 had passed, Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid took a quick break from taking selfies and pounded on the table three times in joy and relief.
Lapid then released a statement in which he credited Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the ministerial liaison to the Knesset Ze’ev Elkin, Coalition Chairwoman Idit Silman and her deputy from Lapid’s party, Boaz Toporovsky. In his speech the night before, Lapid even credited the opposition.
“Sometimes, even in this building, it is necessary to recognize that every time one side wins, it is not a sign that the other lost,” he wrote. “Sometimes we lose together, sometimes we win together. This budget is a mutual win.”
Spreading credit for a victory makes one a good team player in most sports. But not in Lapid’s favorite sport, which is boxing. In boxing, there is often one winner and one loser, and that is actually what happened in Thursday morning’s vote in the Knesset.
There was one unquestionable victor in the vote, and it is Lapid himself.
According to the coalition agreement, now that a budget has been passed, if elections are initiated for the remainder of the term, the caretaker prime minister will be Lapid. Had the budget not passed and February elections would have been initiated on November 14, the caretaker and incumbent prime minister would have been Bennett.
The passage of the budget brings Lapid a large step forward to his goal of becoming prime minister. The only way to stop him now is a rebellion in the current Knesset that would break the coalition agreement and result in another government being formed without going to elections before the rotation is set to take place on August 27, 2023.
Every foreign leader who meets Lapid now knows they are meeting with not only the power broker who built the government and ousted Benjamin Netanyahu, but also with the heir apparent prime minister.
The budget’s victor is not Bennett, who already won when he became prime minister in June. It’s not Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who tweeted that the passage of the budget gives Israel “New Hope” and wrote that it justified the formation of his party with that name.
And the winner is definitely not Defense Minister Benny Gantz, despite his attempt to take the mantle for himself hours before the voting began.
“I see the passage of the budget as a personal victory for me, a victory for Blue and White and for Israeli society as a whole against those who prevented the citizens of Israel from having a budget,” he told his faction in the Knesset.
The vote was obviously bittersweet for Gantz, who would have become prime minister in two weeks had Netanyahu not broken their deal and initiated an election that gave Lapid the alternate prime minister title that Lapid repeatedly mocked when Gantz held the same title.
Lapid and Gantz, who do not get along, sat next to each other for hours and hours during the marathon voting, barely speaking at all.
If there is only one loser though, it has to be Netanyahu, who now will have a harder time coming back to power.
Everyone will remember that he stopped the passage of the budget for what his critics said were his own personal reasons.
And when the rotation approaches and it becomes time for Likud to stop Lapid from becoming prime minister, the party could decide to depart from Netanyahu and throw someone else in the ring.